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Come campaign time, money talks

September 03, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS - When it comes to politics, talk isn't necessarily cheap.

"It takes money to get your message out," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who is seeking his fifth term in the Maryland House of Delegates this year.

In the fundraising race for this year's campaign, Donoghue is trailing his most significant challenger, former Del. Paul D. Muldowney, by about 5 to 1.

According to campaign finance reports filed Aug. 15 with the state Board of Elections, Muldowney had a campaign account balance of a little more than $52,000, and he already had spent $18,891 since the last reports were filed in January.

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Donoghue had a campaign balance of $10,286.72. He had spent $3,099.

Another filing was due Friday.

"I haven't started fundraising yet," Donoghue said this week, but added that he has two fundraisers planned this month. "People are just getting back from their vacations. They're not thinking about the election yet."

No campaign reports were listed for Donoghue's Democratic primary challenger, James M. Devine. Candidates who spend less than $1,000 are not required to file reports.

But Donoghue acknowledged that in a political campaign, money matters.

"It's a shame you have to raise so much money," he said.

The need for campaign finances is perhaps the one thing Donoghue and Muldowney agree on.

"Have you tried to buy space in your newspaper recently? Everything is expensive," Muldowney said.

Muldowney, a former Democrat now running as a Republican, never has had much trouble raising campaign cash. He started raising money last fall, and by the January filing, already had nearly $30,000 in the bank.

While Donoghue and the other sitting legislators were forbidden by law from raising money during the General Assembly session in Annapolis, Muldowney already was selling tickets to his spring fundraiser.

Going to the source

As in his past races, Washington County's business community is well-represented among Muldowney's campaign contributors. And he makes no apology for soliciting their support.

"Business people provide the jobs, the tax base, everything that's needed to better this city and this county," he said. "I'm proud to have that list of contributors, as opposed to PACs."

Muldowney noted that much of Donoghue's campaign treasury has come from political action committees - and that many of those PACs are related to health care. Donoghue serves on the House Health and Government Operations Committee, and is chairman of its health facilities and occupations subcommittee.

Since the last election in 2002, political action committees have given Donoghue $16,325, according to his campaign finance reports. Of that, $9,025 has come from health and insurance-related PACs. Most of those individual PAC contributions have been small, ranging from $100 to $250. The PAC that has contributed the most to Donoghue's campaign chest, at a total of $2,900 over four years, is the Maryland Medical Association's PAC, which represents physicians.

In the past year, Muldowney has collected at least $2,925 from doctors, according to his campaign report.

While Muldowney noted that those PACs have interests before Donoghue's committee, for his part, Donoghue said, "I don't think it makes any difference. The PACs give because they recognize the work I've done over the years. But I am beholden to no one."

A case in point is Maryland insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, which the reports show contributed a total of $600 to Donoghue since 2002. During that time, a California firm planned to purchase CareFirst in a deal that Donoghue said would have made millions for CareFirst's top executives. The legislature blocked that sale, and ordered the company to reorganize. Donoghue and other legislators pressed the company to reduce its profits and contribute to the community - including a partnership with Medbank of Maryland, which provides prescription drugs to seniors.

Money isn't everything

Flush campaign chests certainly help, but dollars don't necessarily translate into votes.

Muldowney, then a Democrat, ran against Donoghue in 1998. According to records from the University of Maryland's Center for American Politics and Citizenship, he raised nearly twice as much money as Donoghue for that campaign. After losing the primary to Donoghue by a score of 1,434 to 1,139, Muldowney mounted a write-in campaign in the general election.

But he lost ground there. When the votes were tallied, Donoghue piled up 4,996 votes to Muldowney's 956.

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